Idaho continues to be a model across the nation in how sexual assault kits are tracked. More than 20 states have contacted the Idaho State Police Forensic Services lab inquiring about the tracking system it uses, according to Idaho State Police's 2018 Sexual Assault Kit Tracking report. Puerto Rico is adopting the system this week.
The state created and adopted an online sexual assault kit tracking system in January 2017 after sweeping legislation transformed how sexual assault kits would be tracked in Idaho. The laws created uniformity in how kits would be submitted to the state lab for testing — something an Idaho Press report in 2016 found was not happening. Instead, law enforcement agencies were previously submitting sexual assault kits to the state lab at varying rates.
Legislation beefed up requirements for law enforcement to submit kits for testing. Part of the legislation included creating a software that would track sexual assault kits, allowing victims to anonymously see at what stage of the investigation their kit was in.
Since the changes, ISP forensic services lab director Matthew Gamette previously told the Idaho Press that he presented the software to a few states, some of which showed interest. Several states have told him they've since adopted the system, according to ISP spokesman Tim Marsano. A couple of those states include Arkansas and North Carolina.
ISP forensic services offers the software free to other states in hopes it will “encourage other states and agencies to also implement sexual assault kit tracking,” according to the annual sexual assault kit tracking report.
According to the annual report from 2018, 25 states, three cities and five national organizations have inquired about the system.
ISP cannot provide programming or ongoing software support assistance, but for “budget strapped agencies” the tool can be beneficial, according to the report.
Thus far, several organizations have implemented the tracking system as it was developed, others have modified it and some are using Idaho's tracking system as an idea to develop their own kit tracking systems, according to ISP's annual report.
For North Carolina, which has only been using the tracking system since October, using the system offered by Idaho has saved the state about $2 million a year or more of time, according to Laura Brewer, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Justice.
"As a result of this system, anyone who wants to know the status of the kit testing — whether it’s law enforcement, prosecutors, defense lawyers, or the victims themselves — all they have to do is to check a website and input the barcode number," North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said. "We can track UPS packages and even Domino’s Pizza to guarantee delivery. Surely we can track sexual assault collection kits to guarantee testing."
In 2017, an inventory found there were more than 15,000 untested kits sitting on shelves in local law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, according to a February letter from Stein. Almost 4,000 kits have been submitted into the system so far.
Like Idaho, North Carolina is working to test its backlogged kits. Currently, what's being called the Survivor Act is in front of the North Carolina Legislature and would require all kits to be tested other than anonymous ones or truly unfounded kits based on a multidisciplinary review.
The list of states inquiring about Idaho’s kit tracking system continues to grow.
In April, Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale suggested adopting a way to track kits that allows victims to keep tabs on their evidence kits as they move through the system.
“There are still victims whose kits have been tested during this amazing push, but they have not received any notification of the results of those tests,” DePasquale said. “A tracking system would also allow police and crime lab officials to record every kit and track what happens once it has been tested.”
He said Pennsylvania should consider implementing a kit-tracking system designed by the Idaho State Police forensic team that is available at no cost, according to a press release from the Pennsylvania auditor general's office.
As other states look to Idaho as a model, Idaho continues to work through its own backlog of sexual assault kits. Previously, Gamette told the Idaho Press the lab hoped to work through the rest of its backlog by the end of 2019. The state had 541 kits that still required testing in 2016. As of this year, they have about 170 previously unsubmitted kits that need to be tested.